Brad Bird Brad Bird

Brad Bird Podcast Interview

Brad Bird

Pixar animators Adam Burke and Andrew Gordon of the Spline Doctors blog have posted a terrific 53-minute podcast interview with Brad Bird. Bird covers a lot of his personal history (not many who can lay claim to being mentored by Milt Kahl as a teen) and offers sound advice throughout (story! story! story!). Makes for inspiring weekend listening. Here’s a few choice thoughts from Brad:

So we often hear about the comeback of 2d animation. Do you think 2D has to change in order to be successful again?

Brad Bird: Yeah, I think they have to tell good stories. I think that’s a radical change.

Can you give any advice to aspiring students and animators about staying fresh and original?

Brad Bird: Don’t just look at animation. Look at everything else. Look at your own life. Feed other things into the medium of animation. Observe plays, paintings, TV shows that you like, poems, the girl that broke your heart two years ago, the car accident you almost had. Bring it all into the medium and the medium will stay as alive as it needs to be. To animate means to give the appearance of life, and you can’t create the illusion of life if you haven’t lived one.

And when Brad talks about quality television, he cites The Wire as an example. Perfect!

  • Steve Wojcik

    “Yeah, I think they have to tell good stories. I think that’s a radical change.”

    OUCH! But the truth hurts though doesn’t it?! As long as executive suits have the power that ain’t gonna change. That is until some young creative ambitious young person puts their passion and heart into a project and once it becomes known or gets acceptance, will be deemed the new “it” and then copied a multitude numbers of times over again by monkey exectutives. AMEN !

  • Galen Fott

    A theatre professor of mine used to remind us: “The roots of theatre are in LIFE, not in theatre.” So it is for all art!

  • As an animator – these are words to live by.

  • DanO

    “you can’t create the illusion of life if you haven’t lived one.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. It’s sad that in our industry there is often a proliferance of social castaways who have chained themselves to the drawing table from early life on and actually resent those who go out and do that.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    This oughta be worth a listen!

  • Mike C.

    It’s great that Brad decided not to talk about technique in favor of acting and emotion. Not that learning to draw and studying old animation isn’t important or useful, but I’ve seen some guys at school who get all excited because Milt Kahl positioned Medusa’s scapula in a certain way. No one in the audience cares. There has to be more of an observation and an understanding towards life. If you don’t engage your audience on an emotional level, you’ve failed before you even started.

  • So many great comments here, but I can’t help noticing the 180 degree turn from the lessons we learned from Hayao Miyazaki just months ago. We were told that the industry would be far better off if everyone would spend more time at the drawing table and not let our families interfere.

    Not to take anything away from Miyazaki’s talent, but I prefer the Bird approach. I was so touched by John Canemaker’s account of Bill Tytla’s work on Dumbo and how inspired he was by his young son Peter. And I can’t help thinking that Glen Keane found a great deal of inspiration from his cartoonist father.

    Hey, even if you’re not a family person, you gotta get out in the real world once in a while.

    Kudos to Brad Bird!

  • Brad’s ability to see things as a director or writer first and THEN as an animation director next may have been what first drew me to his work years ago. I didn’t just laugh at the Binfords in “Family Dog”; I HAD *LIVED* IT!! I have few cartoon fans in my family; for the most part, they preferred live action and still do. But because I knew this was great work, I forced my brother and parents to watch this groundbreaking episode of “Amazing Stories”… luckily, I had recorded it off the TV earlier in the week. Who can forget watching the Binfords getting repeatedly burglarized by the exact same two crooks time and time again… the sheer and utter defeat we felt each time they returned to a completely barren house?! There we were, gathered in our own living room, laughing HEARTILY, *TOGETHER*. We looked at the screen and saw ourselves looking back, and Brad and his crew made it look as simple as a hat trick.
    Nevermind that we’d never even owned a dog!

  • Steve Wojcik

    One other thing……A perfect example of this is in The Incredibles when Bob gets home late and is caught by his wife and they have the argument about “being great”. I watch that scene over and over again because the reasons for the fight have all these underlying reasons that come to surface during the scene. Like a typical couple fight, topics are brought up that arent even relevant to the current situation and hence forth the real cause usually is revealed. Oh yeah by the way, the animation is superb in the scene as well.

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  • ovi

    that was a really cool interview…

  • “It’s sad that in our industry there is often a proliferance of social castaways who have chained themselves to the drawing table from early life on and actually resent those who go out and do that.”

    I think that for the most part, much of that is caused by the studios, not the artists. The studio systems that put out feature films have mostly become sweat shops, cranking out an animated film’s main animation production in close to a year.

  • DanO

    Well what i was referring to (and i hope i don’t offend anyone) is the “reclusive nerd” syndrome in our industry. Not that there is anything wrong with being a nerd per se, heck i played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in my time, but the environment of escapism that permeates the halls of animation can be disconcerting. I think that is what Brad Bird is talking about as well. The flocks of individuals who climbed into their comic books at the age of 13 on and then are now telling stories that require dynamic protagonists when their artistic obsessions and limited social life have left them with little or no experience at being a dynamic protagonist themselves. As animators we are surrounded by those insanely talented people who who can draw like Michelangelo, but they never developed any social skills and they are so shy it’s like pulling teeth to get them to leave their house and live a little. They are a measure of the astounding talent in animation… but many have paid a price for shutting themselves away while learning how to draw like that. The best people to draw a picture for sure, but not the best to relate a story from the real world. You need to go out and get influences from the real world if you are going to recreate it.

    Expanding ones horizons can be a scarce commodity in animation. I can’t even count how many people cite Bugs Buny as their biggest influence, when they haven’t even SEEN the Marx Borthers movies that Termite Terrace was emulating when they wrote those Bugs shorts.

  • Carlos Araya

    I just want to ask to Brad. When does he think to do the second movie of THE IRON GIANT ?

  • carl olsen

    Help please… i need to find a drawing table with a rotating square ( like the ones the artist use at Disney).a company or manufacturer name would be helpfull..